UK, EU mull longer transition to ‘Brexit’


UK and European Union officials are discussing a new proposal to solve the last major hurdle in Brexit talks and soothe the concerns of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Northern Irish allies, according to diplomats familiar with the situation.
Talks are stuck on the issue of the Irish border and a guarantee, or so-called backstop clause in the divorce treaty, which is proving impossible for May’s allies at home to accept. As the UK and EU get closer to a deal, a public announcement on the outcome of the negotiations could be made on Monday, an EU official said.
The new proposal is to allow for the transition—the 21-month grace period that’s due to kick in after Brexit day—to be extended if needed. That would take the sting out of the Irish backstop by making it less likely that it would ever be invoked.
The UK government had no immediate comment.
May is closing in on a Brexit deal but her compromise over the Irish border is alienating two key groups she needs to keep onside.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party objects to the Irish border solution as it will erect some barriers between the province and the rest of the UK. Hardline Brexiteers object to it because it risks keeping the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely.
Arlene Foster, head of the DUP, on Saturday said in an op-ed that she will be in Dublin on Monday for meetings. On Friday, Foster said she met with DUP lawmakers who were “united behind our plan and united in standing firm not just for Northern Ireland but for the Union.”
‘Expensive Mistake’
The trouble with the new proposal is that while it would calm the fears of the DUP—which props up May’s government—it risks enraging pro-Brexit members of her party who only reluctantly agreed to any kind of transition in the first place.
The European Commission, which is carrying out the negotiations on behalf of the EU, told diplomats in a private meeting in Luxembourg on Friday that a deal was in sight and talks will continue over the weekend, an EU official said. If there’s progress, it could be announced publicly on Monday, according to the official.

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